When I first reached out to Lacy Whitford for Mission BC Strong, I expected to discover the usual fascinating tidbits about their business. I anticipated tales of humble beginnings, glimpses in to the world of a wellness centre and, of course, the occasional bumps in the road endured by most businesses as they vie for success in a small community.
I was not prepared for the motivational narrative that followed. What I found was an inspirational story that all started with a vision.
The history behind Evoke Wellness demonstrates a vision that began with the health and wellbeing of our community at centre stage. It is not only a story designed to inspire and encourage entrepreneurs, but also a story that shows what the spirit of community can do to lift each other up.
Nine years ago, two young entrepreneurs decided to combine their expertise. Lacy, a registered massage therapist and Lee, a chiropractor, set out to start a business together.
Their goal was to create a multidisciplinary space that would provide the opportunity for patients to best access the treatment they required. Multiple practitioners such as registered massage therapists, chiropractors, naturopathic doctors, accupuncturists and mental health counsellors could work under one roof, each, in turn, learning from one another.
Finding the ideal location was difficult, as it was a time when Mission was low on affordable commercial space. Stacy Crawford, from Economic Development, pointed them in the direction of Mission City Mall.
“The inside was run-down and in desperate need of repair,” Lacy recalls. “and we were not in the financial position to take any of it on.”
Their profile consisted primarily of; new to the community, little money, fresh out of school, massive student debt, minimal experience, no net worth and zero collateral.
Due to this, they were met with continual rejection as banks shut door after door.
Equipped only with ambition and a vision, they ventured into Community Futures.
“The team loved our idea and was 100% on board,” Lacy tells us as she remembers the support they were given at a difficult time. Their dream was teetering on collapse. “They warned us that we might face rejection once again, but they set us up with a practical business plan and encouraged us to present our case to their board.”
With both pride and trepidation, Lacy and Lee approaching the Community Futures board.
“We were confident in our proposal. We had to show them that.”
The board was convinced. Evoke Wellness was born and they dove right in to renovations.
Being of firm belief that small supports small, they hired local contractors to create their modern, yet comfortable oasis. Local woodworkers came on board to design the shelving and reception desk and they teamed up with Karla’s Specialteas to blend a custom Evoke Wellness tea.
Involvement in the community was essential and they joined the Downtown Business Association board and became members of the Chamber of Commerce. Both were of phenomenal support and helped them reach so many more of their neighbours. They got involved.
They attended local events, fairs and markets in their first few years and even volunteered services for the volunteers at the Mission Folk Music Festival. Astonishingly enough, within their first year of opening, Evoke reached their 5 year projection plan and exceeded even their own expectations.
“We started with no reception,”Lacy says. “Suddenly we had four administration staff and nine practitioners working out of our space.”
This is an inspirational story to anyone that starts out with a dream that might seem unattainable.
When the downtown rumours began to circulate of the Mission Mall up for sale, Lacy immediately become nervous. She could not help but worry that Evoke might have the rug pulled out from under them.
“It was right at that time that the Shu Boutik went up for sale.”
At first, there was pushback.The home was too small; too closed off.
Lacy’s dream was always to have her business in a heritage home. With the help of 4th Dimension Drafting and Lacy Construction, her dream became reality.
“We were met with tremendous support and excitement.”
They have been at the new location since January 2019 and their determination through all of the challenges goes to show that dreams came be achieved.
Lacy beams as she boasts about their new location. “Everyone has a window in their room. The ceilings are 10 feet high. We have a beautiful garden.”
Both Lee and Lacy are the first to admit that it’s the community connections they made that have contributed significantly to the success of Evoke Wellness.
“My advice to everyone right now is to use all the resources made available to you. If you support them, they'll support you.”
It’s true, Mission.
If you support them... they WILL support you.